Review: “Trash Fire” Will Make You Uneasy, But Maybe You Like That?
Ricky Bates Jr. is certainly carving out his own little space, in the indie horror world. Using a concoction of dark, satirical humor and bloody violence, the writer/director consistently makes films that are not only challenging to watch or even describe, but ones that contain an enormous amount of unsettling truths about familial and romantic relationships. The result may not please most viewers, but has quickly earned Bates Jr. a cult icon status that will undoubtedly grow, with his newest movie “Trash Fire” being more of the gruesome same. Filled with miserable, foul-mouthed people and an atmosphere so uncomfortable it would make a serial killer wince, “Trash Fire” takes aim at it’s audience and fires away.
Owen (Adrian Grenier) is living a misanthropic existence, in every sense of the word. Suffering from seizures and painful visions of the fire that killed his parents and left his younger sister disfigured has made him no less disgusted by himself and those around him. Perpetually drunk and aggressively pushing anyone away, who would dare try to connect with him, Owen lives in a sad, bitter relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend Isabel (Angela Trimbur). Living in a state of constant conflict, the two are clearly unhealthy for each other, but when Isabel becomes pregnant they are forced to make changes to try to better themselves and their relationship.
Isabel’s one demand is that Owen reconnect with his estranged grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) and the sister (AnnaLynne McCord) he left behind. Owen warns her that she has no idea what she is asking of him, but she refuses to budge, so the couple set off to begin Owen’s healing process. Once there Owen, his grandmother, and Isabel begin a series of verbally abusive interactions that would send most people right back to the car. While the three of them duke it out, Pearl lurks in the shadows afraid to confront the brother that abandoned her.
There are plenty of things to like about “Trash Fire”. The acting is solid all the way around (especially Fionnula Flanagan who does a wonderful job playing the sadistic old woman), and Bates Jr.’s directing style lends a powerful aesthetic to the already troubling mood of his movie. There are some genuinely funny moments, as well as some great splashes of horror, and the film moves along at a good pace. The issue is that most people looking for something to watch on Netflix, on a Friday night, are going to have a difficult time stomaching the angry, cynical dialogue and the utter darkness of every character involved.
I, for one, do not mind any of that and actually enjoyed “Trash Fire” quite thoroughly. I like a movie that challenges me, and makes me feel something, even if that something is a strong sense of uneasiness. I am sure this film will have a large following, and rightfully so. I just don’t know that I would recommend it to just anyone. Still… if you like your humor dark as night, and your dialogue unapologetic, you will definitely enjoy this flick.